For the first time ever there are seven Big Ten Conference games in a weekend. With two weeks left in the season there is a lot of jockeying for bowl positioning, while the West has yet to be decided between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. The East is all but decided. Unless Ohio State loses to both Indiana and Michigan, plus Michigan State wins out, the Buckeyes are headed to Indianapolis.
So let's look at all seven games, shall we?
Penn State (6-4, 2-4) at Illinois (4-6, 1-5) Noon, ESPN2
Thanks to the win over Minnesota (one of the most surprising result of the season) Illinois is still alive for a bowl and has a pair of teams left that it absolutely could beat. Wes Lunt returned last week and Illinois actually has an offense that can move the ball. Penn State has pretty much limped to bowl eligibility, but they are there. Could this be another abomination of a puntfest like Indiana-Penn State two weeks ago? I sure hope not. The Illini are still bad, but not as bad as last year. I think they find a way to squeeze one out here, mostly because Penn State's offense is so bad it couldn't score on Indiana. Illinois 24, Penn State 21
Indiana (3-7, 0-6) at Ohio State (9-1, 6-0) Noon, BTN
Blood! Blood EVERYWHERE! We have a scenario still alive where a winless team in Big Ten play would have a win over the SEC champion if Missouri wins the SEC. Think about that for a moment. Tevin Coleman is probably going to get a score or two here, but otherwise you have an Ohio State team that is ripping people apart facing... Indiana. Ohio State 55, Indiana 14
Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) at Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) Noon, ESPN
This is basically an elimination game for the West. Minnesota has two losses, but since it still plays Wisconsin and Nebraska it controls its own destiny and can win the tiebreaker over both. If Iowa beats Wisconsin we could have a chaos scenario erupt where a three-way tie can happen. Nebraska need to win and hope Wisconsin drops its last two to have a chance, though a three-way tie is still possible with Iowa and Wisconsin for them as well. If anything, just watch to see how much David Cobb will run for. Minnesota 30, Nebraska 28
Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) at Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) Noon, BTN
The Spartans are still jockeying for one of the big New Years Day bowl spots, as they could finish with two losses to two of the playoff teams (Ohio State and Oregon). Rutgers is probably just happy to be bowl eligible. They haven't really showed up against good teams this year, to MSU should roll. Michigan State 42, Rutgers 17
Northwestern (4-6, 2-4) at Purdue (3-7, 1-5) Noon, ESPNU
It is Senior Day for Purdue and ever since Northwestern struggled out of the gate I have looked at this as a winnable game. I still feel the same even in light of their win at Notre Dame. That was part Northwestern having its best offensive game of the year by far and part Notre Dame completely choking in just about every way possible.
The Boilers have got to hold on to the football in this one. Northwestern has had a ton of success off of turnovers and I still remember their last trip to West Lafayette. That was 2009, when we had 6 turnovers, including three in the final two minutes of the first half, in a game the Wildcats barely won. If the Northwestern offense reverts to form I really like Purdue's chances.
I think we see an amped team tomorrow. The seniors want to close out strong and everyone else wants to build toward the future. I think we get some big plays from Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt and Austin Appleby has his best day as a Boilermaker. Purdue 31, Northwestern 24
Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) at Iowa (7-3, 4-2) 3:30pm, ABC
If Iowa wins this the Big Ten West is officially thrown into utter chaos. It is too bad Minnesota didn't beat Ohio State last week (or lose at Illinois) and that Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, because otherwise we could have been headed toward a 4-way tie with Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska all at 6-2. The only solution hen is a fatal 4-way match on Sunday. The Hawkeyes are down, but they can still win the West. They need to win this game, beat Nebraska, and hope Nebraska also beats Minnesota this week because then the Hawkeyes would win the tiebreaker with Wisconsin. On the other hand, Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin 38, Iowa 24
Maryland (6-4, 3-3) at Michigan (5-5, 3-3) 3:30pm, BTN
This is a featured game this week? Maryland can greatly improve its position for a good bowl, while Michigan can go to Detroit. Is there a funnier scenario than sending Michigan to Detroit for a bowl game? I don't think so. The fact Michigan is still alive is more a testament to Northwestern and Indiana failing to bring an offense when they played the Wolverines. Maryland is better, and Michigan is going to clinch Detroit next week anyway with a stunning upset in the ‘shoe. Maryland 24, Michigan 17